Waterproof E-Textiles In Minutes With Laser Printing

Scientists from RMIT University have developed a cost-efficient method to laser print the next generation of waterproof smart fabric. The e-textiles are embedded with an energy storage device providing energy harvesting technologies.

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Creating a patch of fabric that is both waterproof, stretchable and has an integrated energy harvesting technology and all of that in mere minutes! That is the break-through future technology RMIT University scientists have developed in Melbourne, overcoming key drawbacks of previously existing e-textile energy storage technologies. The 10x10cm textile print prototype was produced in just ten quick minutes, using their innovative new method.

Smart Textiles And Nanotechnology

The scientists found a way to laser print graphene supercapacitors directly onto textiles. The powerful and long-lasting energy storage devices can be used for wearable devices for private consumers, the health care sector or defence industry. Vital signs, location tracking and even the health care status of soldiers in the fields could be tracked with only those devices. It is also washable and waterproof. The smart fabric works as an extremely efficient self-powering unit that can be easily combined with power sources like solar power which makes the new technology equally effective and durable.

Robust and Reliable Energy Solutions

Dr Litty Thekkekara, researcher at the RMIT School of Science, wanted to focus their research on “robust and reliable energy solutions” for smart textiles with built-in sensing, wireless communication or health monitoring technologies. “Current approaches to smart textile energy storage, like stitching batteries into garments or using e-fibres, can be cumbersome and heavy, and can also have capacity issues,” says Dr Thekkekara, further elucidating “these electronic components can also suffer short-circuits and mechanical failure when they come into contact with sweat or with moisture from the environment. Our graphene-based supercapacitor is not only fully washable, it can store the energy needed to power an intelligent garment – and it can be made in minutes at large scale.” Those improvements might enable a new generation of wearable technology and intelligent clothing.

A New Generation Wearable Technology

Throughout the research the scientists analysed the laser printed e-textile’s reaction and performance through a range of mechanical, temperature and washability tests and saw their ideas confirmed in a stable and efficient proof-of-concept. Min Gu, RMIT Honorary Professor and professor at the University of Shanghai for Science and Technology said conclusively: “It also opens the possibility for faster roll-to-roll fabrication, with the use of advanced laser printing based on multifocal fabrication and machine learning techniques.”

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